18 October 2012

Exoplanet next door

I meant to post this yesterday but I didn't feel like it.Astronomers  have discovered an earth sized in the cosmic equivalent of next door.

Just four and half light years away and orbiting Alpha Centauri B the planet is very close to teh star oriting every four days.  The astronomers who found it say it's likely there are other planets circling the same star, a little farther away where it may be cool enough for water and life.
The research was released online Yesterday in the journal Nature. Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory, who heads the European planet-hunting team, said this means "there's a very good prospect of detecting a planet in the habitable zone that is very close to us."

The European team spent four years using the European southern Observatory in Chile to look for planets at Alpha Centauri B and its sister stars Alpha Centauri A and Proxima Centauri. They used a technique that finds other worlds by looking for subtle changes in a star's speed as it races through the galaxy.

Part of the problem is that the star is so close and so brightthat it made it harder to look for planets, said study lead author Xavier Dumusque of the Geneva Observatory.

Dumusque described what it might be like on this odd and still unnamed hot planet. Its closest star is so near that it would always hang huge in the sky. And whichever side of the planet faced the star would be broiling hot, with the other side icy cold.

Because of the mass of the planet, it's likely a rocky surface like Earth, Dumusque said. But the rocks would be "more like lava, like a lava planet."


Well there you have it. It would be amazing to find a planet in the goldilocks zone so near to us... but when I say near we won't be seeing the results of explorations to that star!

6 comments:

Don QuiScottie said...

Ah... Maybe much nearer than you think Jams ;)

jams o donnell said...

Ah so your friends have bases closer to hand!

Don QuiScottie said...

Less than a metre away. You need to re-read my report. There will be a test eventually, you know.

jams o donnell said...

Doh of course!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Four and half light years away - indeed, a local call. Or a weekend trip, the question is are there places to have a quick bite on the way.

jams o donnell said...

I'm sure there will be service stations on the route!